When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, pediatric gastroenterologist Anna Reed (fellow, pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, 2018–2021) knew at once she would go and help. After all, she remembers the night, on the brink of her 4th birthday, in 1981, that her family left Poland by train to escape a brutal Soviet regime. “They wanted to kill my father,” Reed says, recounting how her dad, part of Poland’s Solidarity movement that paved the way to the country’s eventual independence, nearly lost his life.
Reed teamed up with three physicians, while her husband Robert Reed, a pulmonologist, launched a GoFundMe page, raising more than $120,000 to pay for medical supplies in a matter of weeks. On March 13, she arrived in the southeastern Polish town of Rzeszów, close to the Ukrainian border, then drove with her colleagues to a small village, Medyka, one of the largest border crossings in Poland.
The village teemed with tents offering everything from free diapers to cellphones and warm meals. After a day of visiting hospitals and “seeing horrific atrocities,” she and her colleagues traveled to the ancient city of Kraków, where the Red Cross desperately needed their services.
“They took me to a building with endless cots, women and children,” Reed says. She worked there until her two weeks of service ended, monitoring vital signs and treating the plethora of gastrointestinal and respiratory ailments plaguing the crowd. “I’ll never forget some of the people,” says Reed, sharing stories of countless mothers traveling alone with children, traumatized by leaving behind their loved ones.
Reed returned home to her position as a clinical reviewer with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and to her three children and husband, determined to help from afar. Of the money raised on GoFundMe, she paid for prescriptions on-site, restocked supplies at the Kraków Red Cross and donated funds to a Dominican priory and Jewish Community Center, “both doing amazing things to help refugees,” she says. From Maryland, where she lives, she mailed tourniquets to a Red Cross contact, adding, “We can at least keep a few brave people from bleeding to death who are fighting for the fate of the world.”